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commercial kitchen layout

Your dining room is packed and your kitchen is bustling. Suddenly, you hear the unmistakable sound of plates crashing to the ground, and you know it’s because your tight kitchen space has once again caused someone to collide with a wait staff member. Not only is all of that food lost, but there’s a mess to clean up, and hungry patrons who will now have to wait for new dishes to be cooked.

This is the very type of scenario you want to avoid when you are designing your kitchen layout. A poorly designed space that is highly trafficked and full of people working with flames, knives and hot liquids can be a recipe for disaster. Not to mention all of the other factors like poor productivity, lost revenue because of food waste, and getting into hot water for not following food safety standards.

To make sure you have the most optimized, well-flowing commercial kitchen layout that allows your cooks, food prep staff, and waitstaff to move around safely and efficiently, here are some things you need to consider.

Size and space

No matter the size and type of restaurant you have, you’ll need to have ample space to make sure your food can be properly stored, prepped, cooked, and picked up for service. You’ll also want to go through this restaurant equipment checklist to make sure you have all the tools you’ll need to succeed in the kitchen. Once you know what appliances you’ll need, make sure you have enough square footage to fit your amenities. A good rule of thumb is that your kitchen should take up about 30% to 40% of your entire space. The other 60-70% is for your dining area, restrooms, bar, and waiting area.

So it’s not the actual of your kitchen that matters, but how much space you have relative to your seating capacity, and how you maximize that space.

Open kitchen style for observation chef working


As you consider your empty space, the first thing you need to do is find out what the restaurant kitchen regulations and permits are in your state and city since that may dictate some of your layouts. For example, there might be rules that specify the distance between food prep and storage areas, how you need to install vents, and more. Using these rules, your designer will create blueprints, and those will have to be approved by your local fire inspector and state health department.

Your Restaurant’s Needs

As you start thinking about layout styles, you’ll want to consider the type of food you’ll be preparing, equipment needed, how many people will be working in the kitchen at once, how much storage you’ll need for perishables, etc.  

Opening a new restaurant? Find everything you need in our Restaurant Licenses and Permits Guide.


Ultimately, you want to set up your commercial kitchen in such a way that your workers don’t have to move around much, or awkwardly carry heavy supplies and equipment. You also want to minimize spills and accidents by being smart about how and where items are stored, and making sure there is ample room to move around.

Once you’ve thought about the above factors, it’s time to explore the most efficient commercial kitchen layout options to decide which one is right for your restaurant. There is commercial kitchen software that can help illustrate the various options for your space. Or, you can hire a professional to help you choose from among the best commercial kitchen layout plans.

Either way, to help get you ready for the next phase in your planning, take a look at some typical commercial kitchen layout examples:

Island layout

Island Kitchen commercial kitchen layout

An island kitchen design features one main block of workspace for cooking in the center, with all of the prep and serving stations and equipment along the outside perimeter. The idea is that it will allow workers to easily get around, as long as there is a wide enough space around the island.

Good for:
Both larger and smaller restaurants can benefit from an island-style layout thanks to the open floor space. It’s also a bit easier to clean.

Zone layout

Zone Kitchen commercial kitchen layout

Zone layout is what it sounds like – the kitchen is divided into different areas depending on the task at hand. So there might be a food prep zone for chopping and mixing, and all of the necessary tools and equipment will be right there in that station. The cooking zone is only for cooking already-prepped ingredients.

Good for:
The benefit of this type of layout is for restaurants that serve up several menu items that are not cooked, for instance, salads and smoothies. That way, servers can access both cooked and non-cooked dishes, and each staffer can focus on their specific job without getting in each other’s way.

Assembly line layout

Assembly Line Kitchen commercial kitchen layout

The assembly line setup is ideal for keeping a good flow going when you’re pumping out a lot of the same dishes that have several steps. It’s basically set up in one long row starting with ingredient prep, to hot food cooking, to plating, and service station.

Good for:
You’ll often see an assembly line layout in fast service restaurants or sandwich shops, but it can work for any restaurant that has a simple menu.

While there’s no such thing as right or wrong commercial kitchen layout plans, there’s a good chance that one of the styles above is best for your restaurant. Think about the kind of food preparation that will take place, the number of moving pieces involved, and how much volume you expect. Then, work with a commercial kitchen layout planner to help you design your restaurant. Your ultimate goal is to ensure safety and optimal productivity for your kitchen staff. By managing the workflow in and out of the kitchen, you’ll also be able to increase employee satisfaction, reduce food waste and increase profits.

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When all is said and done, to obtain even just one of the proper licenses and permits can cost as much as 10,000 dollars. Luckily, the only resource you’ll need to open your doors with the right licenses and permits is here.

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Written by   |  
Dawn Papandrea is freelance writer based in New York. Her work has appeared in numerous publications including Family Circle, WomansDay.com, and more. She loves trying new restaurants with her family and friends in her spare time.
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